Accomplishments & Awards

CIRES research spans four decades of important discoveries, prestigious and presidential awards, national and international accomplishments.


Internally Funded Research

CIRES funds about 10 creative research projects annually, through our Innovative Research Program. The program is designed to stimulate novel, unconventional, or fundamental research and to encourage collaboration. Since the program began in 1999, it has enabled dozens of CIRES researchers to break new ground, to gather critical data before applying for more conventional grants, and to cross disciplinary boundaries.

Interdisciplinary Research

CIRES employs an interdisciplinary approach to environmental science that allows our researchers to address questions of scientific and societal relevance, present useful results in meaningful contexts, and rapidly adapt to a changing world.


Bacterial “fingerprinting” could enhance forensic toolbox. Forensic scientists may soon have a valuable new item in their toolkits -- a way to identify individuals using unique, telltale types of hand bacteria left behind on objects like keyboards and computer mice. Read more ...

Ambient marine noise as an eco-friendly way to monitor ocean physics. The ocean is a noisy place. Raindrops, waves, whales, and ship engines coalesce into a cacophony of underwater noise. New methods for making sense out of this oceanic garble can help researchers keep an ear on ocean physics, something potentially helpful for climate science and wildlife alike. Read more ...

Aerosols control rainfall in the rainforest. Researchers show that precipitation-controlling aerosols over the Amazon rainforest mainly originate directly from the forest ecosystem as biological particles. The results of this new study could help to establish more accurate climate models and to analyze how humans affect clouds and precipitation. Read more ...

Desert dust reduces river flow. Dark-colored dust that settles on snow in the Upper Colorado River Basin makes the snow melt early and robs the Colorado River of about 5 percent of its water each year. Read more...


Visiting Fellows

Hundreds of researchers from around the world have conducted collaborative research with CIRES via the CIRES Visiting Fellowships Program. Previous CIRES Director (Susan Avery) and current Director (Konrad Steffen) began their CIRES careers as Visiting Fellows.

Visiting Lecturers

Every year, CIRES invites a handful of outstanding professionals to participate in our Distinguished Lecture Series, which began in 1998 to promote the global perspectives of well-known scientists, historians of science, science policy experts, science journalists, and others.

Decision Making

Initiatives such as CIRES' Western Water Assessment bring natural and social scientists together with legal specialists, policy makers, and stakeholders to address the concerns of people who use and manage environmental resources.


Graduate Education

Since 1967, CIRES Faculty have supervised the research of hundreds of students who have earned Master’s and Ph.D. degrees and are now in environmental science and research positions in academia and industry, in the United States and around the world.

Education Outreach

CIRES has been reaching out to the education community since 1989. The work of our K-12 Education and Outreach Program has touched hundreds of teachers and students.

Investments in Staff

CIRES successfully fosters employee advancement through our Career Track and Outstanding Performance Award programs. CIRES created the CIRES Members' Council to act as an information and policy conduit between CIRES' leadership and the Institute's "Members," including associate scientists, research scientists, and administrative associates.

Established Centers of Excellence

CIRES' centers have sustained and successful records of high quality interdisciplinary science. CIRES' Center for Limnology promotes research and teaching related to inland aquatic ecosystems. CIRES' Center for Science and Technology Policy Research seeks to improve the relationship between societal needs, science, and technology policy. Our Climate Diagnostics Center develops and applies techniques to improve understanding of climate variation and change, and improves models used to analyze, predict, and assess climate. The Earth Science and Observation Center uses remote-sensing techniques to advance scientific and societal understanding of the Earth system. CIRES' National Snow and Ice Data Center, which celebrated its 33rd anniversary in 2009, is an internationally recognized source of data and research on Earth’s changing cryosphere.

CIRES around the World

Five CIRES researchers selected as Lead Authors for the 5th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC is the scientific intergovernmental body charged with compiling reports on the current state of climate change and its potential consequences. A total of 831 climate change experts from around the world will dedicate almost four years to the three Working Group Reports to be published between 2013 and 2014. Read more ...

Lessons from the Haiti earthquake. CIRES Fellow Roger Bilham, one of the first seismologists to visit Haiti after last month's earthquake, calls for UN enforcement of resistant construction in cities with a history of violent tremors. Read more ...

CIRES scientist documents Inuit knowledge to help science learn about Arctic weather. Inuit forecasters living in the Canadian Arctic could look to the sky and tell whether a storm is on the horizon or if it's safe to go on a hunt. But old weather signals don’t mean what they used to. CIRES researcher Shari Gearheard documents Inuit knowledge of the environment and environmental change. Read more ...

Sea levels rising in parts of the Indian Ocean. The new study, which combined sea surface measurements going back to the 1960s and satellite observations, indicates anthropogenic climate warming likely is amplifying regional sea rise changes in parts of the Indian Ocean, threatening inhabitants of some coastal areas and islands. Read more ...